Shirley Ballas says sexist bullies tried to kill my career

The former champion dancer, pictured left, said that powerful figures tried to scupper her coaching career after she stopped dancing, as they did not want a woman in a senior role.

Shirley also said that bullying is still an issue today and that she is “pretty close” to naming and shaming those responsible.

On Desert Island Discs she revealed she faced criticism about her weight and shape throughout her career, to the extent she became a “yo-yo dieter”.

But the harshest treatment came soon after giving birth to her son Mark in 1986, when her dance teacher told her: “I don’t want to see your stretch marks. I hate it when your skin is wobbling – you make people feel physically sick. You need to sort yourself out.”

She said she “compartmentalised” the remarks, only dealing with them through counselling after taking up coaching in 1996.

She told show host Lauren Laverne about “immense bullying in the industry from men at the top”. She added: “They were stopping my work”, telling couples they would never ­progress if she taught them.

“There was an awful lot of things going on like that for no particular reason, other than they did not want a woman in any high places.

“I don’t think it’s much better today. I still think bullying goes on. I don’t know how people get away with it until it becomes name and shame. I am pretty close to doing that.”

Regarding her resurgence, Shirley, 63, said, “fortunately something aligned” when she was asked to replace her friend and former teacher Len Goodman to become Strictly’s head judge in 2017.

She said: “So thank you very much to all the bullies in my industry – and you know who you are. Thank you because you gave me a platform and a job that I sincerely love and adore.”

Among the discs Shirley would take to a desert island were Ring Of Fire by Johnny Cash and Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana.

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